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incidental function. Even when the law gives him exclusive jurisdiction of children's cases, and when this requirement of the law is observed, he may, and often does, have little inclination or adaptability to the work. His legal training may result in his having undue regard for harmful technicalities of procedure, and his experience in the administration of the criminal law may result in his carrying into the juvenile cases the punitive theory of justice. He is likely to be affected by the point of view held by so large a proportion of the legal profession and of the general public as well, that children's cases are comparatively trivial, or he may even regard them as a vexatious burden.
There are signs of an increasing disposition among lawyers as well as laymen to question the method of selecting judges by popular election. Some of the most conspicuously successful juvenile court judges have hard fights for re-election, and in very many communities the persons best fitted for the work are deterred from becoming candidates by reason of their political independence or a contempt for the scramble of political campaigns. Even in states where the desirable precedent obtains of retaining in office satisfactory judges, regardless of their party affiliations, political considerations are an insidious force limiting the independence of the courts. Our judges are without doubt our ablest and most conscientious public officials. But an able and conscientious judge who has served several terms has said that as each successive election approached he felt that it would be more and more difficult for him to rebuild a private law practice; that as he grew older he felt an increasing dependence upon retaining his office, and saw the time coming when it would be difficult for him to leave entirely out of consideration the political bearings of the matters coming before him.
But entirely apart from any question of personal integrity of the judges, which probably influences the disposition of few cases in few courts, there is the much more important limitation on the case work of the juvenile courts imposed by the mere fact of its being a public agency. A group of like-minded, progressive citizens may organize for any purpose not actually forbidden by law and conduct social experiments. But the courts in a democracy are created and supported by public laws and appropriations, and they must commend themselves to the public. They may lead public opinion, but they cannot go far ahead of it, and they must be sure it is following. True, much depends upon the manner in which new things are done, and the angle from which they are presented to the community. Methods and personalities play an important part in the community reaction. But the fundamental fact remains that the prevailing opinion constitutes a limitation beyond which any official public agency attempts to pass at its peril. Social workers are well acquainted with the forward looking but canny judge who, although himself thoroughly in accord with some new policy urged upon him, nevertheless postpones its adoption because he knows that at that time, in that community, it would endanger the whole juvenile court program. Social workers also are well acquainted, be it regretted, with the standpat judge who lacks the courage or the enthusiasm to lead his commu
nity and convince them that the time has come for a certain progressive policy to
Nowhere are the limitations imposed by public opinion more obvious than in the probation service. Acutely aware of this, indeed, are those of us who have attempted to persuade a county fiscal board that they ought to appropriate money for an adequately paid probation staff of competent officers. Forthwith we are confronted with the tragedy of the already overburdened taxpayer; of the struggling farmers who are in danger of losing their property; of the laborers and tradespeople who don't want this innovation; with the view that all this is for the benefit of criminals who don't deserve consideration; and to our arguments that probation officers ought not to be burdened with an utterly impracticable volume of cases is made the reply, often with much justification, that no public officeholder was ever known to overwork. These and similar arguments are often sincere, and the attitude they express constitutes a disastrous limitation today upon the effectiveness of our juvenile courts and upon adult probation as well. These county boards are the chosen representatives of the people, and their powers are those conferred upon them by state constitutions and legislatures, adopted or elected by the people.
To be sure, it is not always easy to know just where to look for public opinion. It may be contended that county fiscal boards, or even state legislatures, often do not represent even average public opinion, and usually not the best public opinion; that they are often interested, not primarily in the good of the people, but in the success of a party or faction. In large measure this is true; but the practical question is whether their opinion, or at least their expressions of opinion, are not the effective public opinion with which the juvenile court must deal and by whose decisions it is bound. They are organized and vocal, while the friends of the court are too often unorganized and silent.
How can we expect good case work to be done by juvenile courts which have no case workers? Or by courts whose case workers are political hangers-on of dubious personal character, or untrained, uneducated weaklings? That is the practical situation confronting us today in many juvenile courts of the country. The strong arm type of probation officer who carries a gun and occasionally beats up his wards appears, fortunately, to occur only in adult probation departments, and not in many of them.
But the most devastating limitation upon juvenile court case work is the lack of understanding, still widespread, as to its real significance, purposes, and methods, on the part not only of the general public, but even of judges and others administering the juvenile court law. Nearly every state has accepted the juvenile court in theory, but over large areas of most states-perhaps of all states-there is a woefully inadequate understanding of what the court is really intended to accomplish, or how it should function. We find courts in which there is entire satisfaction with untrained volunteer probation service; in which there is no need felt for the social investigation of cases; in which physical examina
tions are never ordered unless necessary to procure admission of a child to an institution, and in which, as to mental examinations, one would not dare use the word "psychiatric"; which use a strictly criminal procedure in children's cases, regardless of explicit provisions of the law to the contrary; in which the hearings are public; in which social records are unknown; which not only tolerate but encourage adjustment by police departments of children's cases, with jail detention as an incident. You who know juvenile court work only at its best, in communities where the judges and probation officers are capable, devoted people constantly improving on their own best work and diligently striving to push the cause forward, should realize that these communities are the high lights of our picture, easily diverting our attention from the more extensive shadows.
Just one illustration, from a county of 75,000 in a prosperous state; a county which has two colleges and is a nationally known medical center. There are no probation officers, except the part time of an official who holds three other county positions, any one of which might well occupy all of his time. A girl was recently brought before the juvenile court charged with delinquency. Her case was regarded as a serious one, and her commitment to a state institution was considered. There was no physical or mental examination, and no real social investigation to learn the causes of her delinquency. At the hearing a married sister of the girl asked for her custody, proposing to take her to her home in a large city, find work for her, and watch over her. The sister's home was not investigated, but her proposal was accepted, on the condition that she report to the court by mail monthly. The well-organized juvenile probation department of that city was not called upon for any cooperation in supervising the girl while on probation. After several months, during which the monthly reports had stated all was going well, the girl's family informed the court that she had been doing very badly, and had now run away from the sister's home. A few days later the girl was taken into custody by the police in the city and placed in their juvenile court's detention home. The skilled probation staff there, learning of her being on probation (if, indeed, we may call this probation), telephoned to the court of which she was a ward. That court directed that she should not be held in the detention home, but released to that same sister, and a few days later sent a male officer with a warrant for her arrest. Of course she hadn't waited at her sister's to be arrested. At last account she was still at large, perhaps better so, all things considered. This story was related by the part-time probation officer only as an illustration of his work, and apparently without any consciousness of imperfections in his methods.
Now this is a fair illustration, I believe, of the quality of case work that is being done in many good communities in every state. A few people in those communities know how much better work ought to be done. With those people the juvenile court in those communities is not a highly regarded agency. Yet it is by its case work that the juvenile court must commend itself or fall into disre
pute. There have been enough of high-sounding praises of the juvenile court as an end in itself. The general principle of the juvenile court is, for the time being at least, accepted almost everywhere. It is time we realized the urgency of improving the standards of its case work, not merely in progressive communities which are working out their problems for themselves pretty well, but in those more numerous jurisdictions where little or no progress is being made. In this, or in as many other fields, getting a law on the statute book is only a beginning. Much better work could be done in those same jurisdictions by the right people working under very disadvantageous laws.
A thorough realization of the status and needs of the juvenile court need not lead to pessimism, and it does no good to grow sarcastic about it. It would be remarkable indeed if all parts of the country made progress at the same rate. In the development of social institutions a quarter of a century is, after all, not a long time. And if the high lights of our picture were extinguished, doubtless the shadows would assume a lighter gray by contrast with the blacker things of a century or two ago, even in our own country. Our chief concern should be as to how we may best make progress. Facing the facts of the present situation is not mere calamity howling, it is a necessary preliminary to progress.
But what of the possibilities? It is easy to say that at the root of the forces limiting the efficiency of juvenile court case work is a widespread lack of information and of understanding, and that therefore the thing to do is to educate public opinion. But something more is necessary. It is one thing to get people's passive consent or agreement; that is only to remove their opposition. It is quite another thing to get people to do something; that requires organization and persistent, wisely directed activity. It is not enough that public opinion should favor our general aims; it must be roused to active support of specific proposals. Educational efforts must be continued-yes, and redoubled-but in addition responsible machinery in every state for persistent following up of educational work is needed. Only thus can the full possibilities of juvenile court work be realized.
There are many forces operating to bring about a wider knowledge of good juvenile court standards and to prepare the way for general acceptance of measures for the improvement of the courts' work. We call to mind at once the educational work of the federal Children's Bureau, of state probation commissions, and of enthusiastic judges and probation officers. Improving standards in other branches of social work are demonstrating the need for improvement in probation case work as well. The state and national probation associations are doing their bit. It is most encouraging that more and more requests are being made, from widely separated parts of the country, for studies to be made of juvenile court work and for suggestions for its improvement.
But for the official, authoritative agencies by which the juvenile court laws are set in operation we would do well to contrast the court with the public school. The teacher must satisfy certain increasingly rigid educational requirements
and pass an examination before becoming eligible for appointment. In only a few states and cities has a beginning been made of similar, though as yet rudimentary, requirements for probation officers through civil service examinations. The superintendent of schools is appointed by a nonpartisan board of citizens selected for their high character and for their interest in educational work. Does anyone propose that the superintendent or principal be compelled to campaign for re-election at stated intervals, as is the judge of the juvenile court? The school curriculum and the methods of instruction are set forth in great detail by a state department of education. Why leave each county to grope about as best it may for methods of dealing with delinquency, neglect, and dependency? State tax funds are devoted to the encouragement and necessary aid of local districts in the maintenance of proper standards in school work. Why not in probation and juvenile court work? England has now adopted this policy; the British Home Office is authorized, by the Criminal Justice act of 1925, to aid local units in the payment of the salaries of probation officers.
Some of our states, of course, have gone much farther than others in the state control of education; but all recognize that some degree of state supervision, direction, and financial aid is necessary. It is unthinkable that we should leave to individual school districts the entire control of the public schools. Yet the condition such a policy would cause would be no more chaotic than at present prevails in juvenile court work. Why should the more difficult problems presented by case work with delinquent, neglected, and dependent children be left as largely as they are to local initiative and local resources?
There are, of course, important beginnings of state supervision of juvenile court, and especially of probation work. In a greater or less degree it is already established in several states, notably in New York and Massachusetts, through state probation commissions or departments of public welfare. Some of these states, however, have done little more as yet than to recognize the principle, and in none of them do the powers of their commissions approach those of the state education departments. A few small states (Vermont, Rhode Island) have established unified probation systems for the whole area, administered entirely from one state office. A similar policy for adult probation in a larger state, Wisconsin, has not demonstrated itself to be practicable. Utah has gone so far as to establish a state juvenile court commission which appoints the judges and probation officers of all the juvenile courts of the state and maintains them from state funds. It might seem that this system would err on the side of leaving too little to local initiative; it appears contrary to the genius of our system of government in most states. It is not desirable to destroy the opportunity for local interest and responsibility. On the awakening of that interest and the development of that responsibility depend, in the long run, all the possibilities for good, in juvenile court case work as well as in other fields of public service.
Realization of the utmost possibilities of the juvenile court case work depends then, fundamentally, upon the creation of a general appreciation of its